US blames Iran for tanker bombings in UAE, Saudi attack

US blames Iran for tanker bombings in UAE, Saudi attack
# 25 May 2019 07:26 (UTC +04:00)

The Pentagon on Friday blamed Iran and its proxy forces for recent tanker bombings in the United Arab Emirates and an attack on a pipeline in Saudi Arabia, ONA reports quoting Anadolu Agency.

This determination came the same day U.S. President Donald Trump announced the deployment of an additional 1,500 troops to the Middle East.

"We believe that Iran's actions and threats are troubling, escalatory and dangerous to our U.S. forces," Vice Admiral Mike Gilday, director of operations for the Joint Staff, said at a press conference at the Pentagon.

Gilday outlined further details on the deployment of additional troops to the Middle East, saying they are being put forth not to cause any provocation with Iran but to increase protection for forces already in the region, including a navy carrier strike force, bomber task force and Patriot missile defense battery that were deployed earlier in the month.

Of the 1,500 troops being deployed, the forces will include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, in addition to force protection, engineering and aviation units, according to Gilday. He mentioned that the forces will be comprised of both manned and unmanned technologies, including an Air Force fighter squadron.

The U.S. currently has 70,000 troops stationed in the Middle East.

"While we do not seek conflict with Iran, we are determined to protect our forces and interests in the region from attack," he said.

Amid the heightened tensions in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates said earlier this month that four commercial ships were hit by sabotage attacks off the coast of the port city of Fujairah.

That same week, military drones attacked two oil pump stations on the East-West pipeline, which carries oil from Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province to Yanbu port in the Red Sea. Saudi Arabia blamed Houthi rebels backed by Iran for the attacks.

Then on Sunday, a rocket hit an area near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. No one was reported injured or killed, but Trump issued a warning to Iran, saying that a fight with the U.S. would be the "official end" of the country.

Gilday told reporters that all three of these attacks had been directly linked to Iran or its proxy forces and said there are credible reports that Tehran is planning an attack on U.S. personnel in the region. However, he did not provide direct evidence to back these claims.

Last month, the U.S. designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of Iran's armed forces, as a terrorist organization. Iran retaliated by naming U.S. Central Command a terror group, setting up the potential for a military clash between the two sides in the Middle East.

Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said the additional forces would not be deployed to either Iraq or Syria, but could not reveal the exact location of the troops' deployment.